So the St. Louis Blues got knocked out of the Playoffs in four straight first-round losses, but could they still be close to making a deep run next season?
I sure do not profess to know your team and its affiliate Peoria Rivermen all that well, but I like the nucleus of the organization.
David Backes, Brad Boyes, Andy McDonald, David Perron, T.J. Oshie, and Patrik Berglund up front with Barret Jackman, Jeff Woywitka, Roman Polak, Erik Johnson, and Eric Brewer on defense makes for a formidable squad. And just think how much better the D would have been this postseason with Brewer and Johnson taking part.
Then add Paul Kariya, and the power play looks a whole lot better.
Although Keith Tkachuk was the Blues' fourth-leading scorer, it may be time for him to step aside and allow one of the Rivermen prospects an opportunity to take his place. I remember during the Playoffs that Tkachuk played at times on the fourth line.
The 'Nucks had a similar dilemma with an aging player in Trevor Linden, and Linden resolved it for them by retiring.
The Blues also need to get bigger on D in their six to nine spots. Yes, I know teams would usually carry only seven defensemen, but with the numerous injuries they've sustained this season, those seven through nine guys need to be able to step in and fill open minutes with quality play.
The 'Nucks had Mike Weaver last season, but he does not compare to a Brewer or Johnson, nor is he big enough to handle the big bodies out front or coming out from the corners.
In goal, Chris Mason stepped up, took the No. 1 job, and ran with it. His play and stats down the stretch proved he can be that top guy, but a quality backup is needed, and Manny Legace does not cut it. Maybe Chris Holt, a good-sized B.C. boy?
The Blues have more than enough toughness in Backes, B.J. Crombeen, Brad Winchester (liked him when he was in Edmonton), Cam Janssen, and the feisty Perron.
Plus, the Rivermen have some players that deserve a chance to make the Blues' roster. I'm thinking of guys like Steve Regier (gotta like his size at 6'5"), Trent Whitfield, and Julian Talbot.
With Whitfield and Talbot being centres, they could prove key to building a good team. You can never have too many centres, and these guys are a decent size. And the size necessary for in the six through nine spots on D could come in the form of Tyson Strachan and Alex Pietrangelo.
In the Blues system, a few players could supplant and add depth to the D on the Rivermen next season, namely Ian Cole (first-rounder) and Steve Wagner. It's a good thing, in my opinion, that the defenseman position in the Blues organization is manned mostly by North Americans, who are exposed to more physical play in juniors and college.
The one key hole that I see is a power-play specialist that operates from the point position. Players like Brian Campbell, Dan Boyle, Mike Green, Andrei Markov, and Scott Niedermayer are of the type St. Louis needs.
Speaking of Niedermayer, he will be an unrestricted free agent next season and would look good on the Blues' point if they could fit him into the cap.
Success in any organization comes from the top, and in Blues President John Davidson, the team has a great hockey mind. To boot, they've surrounded JD with equally sound people in Peter McLoughlin, Larry Pleau, Doug Armstrong, Al MacInnis, and David Bullock, who bring years of NHL experience and knowledge into the fold.
If Blues fans look at the organization from top to bottom, I think they should be optimistic, spelled with a capital "O," in the coming seasons.